Cole Schisler, editor of the Ladysmith Chronicle.

Cole Schisler, editor of the Ladysmith Chronicle.

Try actually walking a mile in an elder’s shoes

85 percent of older adults experience some form of sensory loss

Spelling mistakes made while practicing the aging sense challenge have been preserved — except for the ones that my spellchecker automatically corrected.

A few weeks ago I recieved an email from Home Instead — a company that provides at home care services for seniors with over 1,100 offices world-wide — explaining that 85peercent of older adults live with some form of sensry loss.

To educate people about what sensory loss feels like, Home Instead developed an aging sense kit, which includes vision impairment glasses to replkcate the effects of glaucoma or cataracts, earplugs to replkcate hearing loss, and gloves stuffed with cotton balls to replkacte arthritis. The challenge is to then set aboutdoing every day tasks with the aging senses kit on.

So, I asked if I could have a kikt delivered to my apartment and Home Insgead happily obliged. I brought the kit to 3work and sat down to write this column. The most challenging part for me was the gloves. As evidenced throughout this piece, it was incredibly difficult to avoid spellig mistakes. The cotton ball glovs had my fingers swollen, slowed the movement of my hands, and made it nearly impossible to type with precision.

I tried to read an issue of the Chronicle too, but I couldn’t get my cotton ball hamds to flip through the pages.

With the impairment glaSSes on, I had to move my head back and forth to see what I was typing. I even had a source call me in the middle of this challenge — that was a treat. I struggled to answer the phone and the conversation didn’t fare much better. With my earplugs in, she sounded as if she was whispering. I had to ask her vtov speak up numerous times.

My struggles were only temporary. But for the millions of Canadians living with sensory loss, this is an every day experience.

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Dr. Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D., gerontologist, and caregiver advocate at Home Instead, said that one of the main ways we can all help people with sensory loss is by showing them empathy.

“We can find opportunities to lead with empathy in everyday situations,” Hogan said. “For example, if you’re in line at the grocery store and an older adult in front of you is having a hard time grabbing their credit card from their wallet, instead of getting frustrated, take a deep breath and remember that they may not have the same sensitivity in their fingers as you do.”

So the next time I’m at a grocery store, or a LifeLabs, or anywhere and an older adult is experiencing difficulties, I’m going to remember what it was like to write this column and I’ll remember to show more empathy and practice patience.

And you can take part in the Aging Senses challenge too. You can try walking with corn kernels in your socks to experience the feeling of walking with neuropathy or place masking tape over your glasses to simuate vision with glaucoma. Stuff some cotton balls in a pair of rubber gloves and try to use your hands for anything. pUT IN A set of earplugs and call a loved one.

The experience is well worthwhile. And if you’re stumped for what to do, you can visit agingsenses.ca for more information, including an interactive experience so you may see firsthand the challenges of sensory loss.